Doctor Liability Ins and Your Smartphone

Serious PhysicianCan your small, handy smartphone cause you to need your doctor liability ins? A recent article in AMedNews.com is warning physicians that smartphones can cause distractions significant enough to endanger patient safety. What’s the big deal? Physicians are always being interrupted –by nurses, phone calls, pages, returning lab results, you name it.

Many estimate that more than 80% of physicians use smartphones and about one-third use other portable devices like a tablet or iPad. Because the devices are always with the physician, they pose a high likelihood of interrupting the doctor-patient interaction, which can lead to errors and potentially a need for one’s doctor liability ins. Adding these interruptions to an already busy and/or distracted physician, might just be the tipping point. Concern is high over smartphones and other portable devices because not only can they interrupt the physician for work-related issues, but the physician’s device is often his or her personal phone or personal mobile device and personal texts and phone calls can now be received, e-mail can be checked, the internet can be surfed, etc. It’s a lot of potential distractions from one device.

While the data is not in yet to support these fears of potential errors (and the need for doctor liability insurance to handle them) due to smartphones and mobile devices, a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (August 29, 2011) showed that physicians are interrupted nearly five times per hour by face-to-face interactions, telephone calls, and email alone. Never mind texting or the internet or social media.

But shutting off the devices may be a lot easier said than done because a lot of physicians are also choosing to use these devices for work-related tasks, like: consulting drug and treatment references, educating patients, and communicating with coworkers. Many say the devices are actually helping them to be more efficient.

The article goes on to discuss the current generation of new docs and residents and how they have been conditioned to think it’s ok to be continuously interrupted. It also provides a great real-life example of a resident told to stop a patient’s Warfarin, but she received a text in the process, from a friend asking if she was going to a party, and the drug was never stopped. Be careful, you might need your doctor liability ins.

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